I sat at my desk with the review clutched in my hand. I had applied for an advanced writing class. Their response was something a little unexpected.
My first professional review on my writing went a little something like this:
This applicant’s letter and sample chapters show she has raw storytelling skills, as well as motivation and enthusiasm. But the chapters also show that she needs training in fiction basics to be able to let her stories emerge from the amateur writing habits that constrain them.
Her prologue lacks a strong hook, and the prose is written in a passive, redundant, pretentious style that eschews simplicity. The omniscient point of view distances readers emotionally from the story. The slow pacing of the opening pages defeats the author’s goal of building suspense. A key action-the assassination-is almost lost amid all the reflection and contemplation that surrounds the deed. With training and practice these issues can be overcome. Feb 5, 2010
Ouch! I’m a redundant, pretentious, spewer of simplicity. Note to the wise, they’re critiquing your work not you as a person. There is a difference. I sat at the desk for a while and thought about my options. I could quit writing because maybe I wasn’t cut out for it after all (I was stuck on this one for a while) or I could pull myself up by my bootstraps and start studying the one thing I’d always wanted to do.
Two years later… Note that this review was written by the same people as the first:
The sample of her writing shows ability that can be sharpened even more by a good mentor. She is dedicated to the work, is disciplined as a writer and has had some experience with publications. In the sample she sent, her plot moves well, action carries the reader along and dialogue is used well to show the thoughts and feelings of the characters without a lot of narrative intervention.
There are a few minor problems that any writer might have. In one sentence she mixes singular and plural. Some words need to be hyphenated. The words “men that” would be better written as “men who.” Animals and things are usually referred to as “that” but human beings are referred to as “who.”
This applicant is gifted as a fiction writer, far above many others I’ve seen. Jan19, 2012
Have you ever received a bad review? Have you ever wondered if you were cut out for the writing life after all?
There are three things you should do before tossing that review aside.
1.) Pray. Ask the Lord for guidance.
2.) Grow a thick skin. This has helped me so much. I’m not saying the person reviewing your work is always right but chances are they know what they’re talking about. After two years, I read what I’d first submitted and realized they were spot on! 🙂
3.) Get to work. Don’t stop writing. Study the craft and find a good editor. Keep submitting your work.
Writing isn’t easy but I know it’s what I’ve been called to do. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been called too. Don’t give up!